The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on October 27, 1996 · Page 52
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 52

Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Sunday, October 27, 1996
Page 52
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Sportswriter MIKE LUPICA argues it's time for fans to fight back against petulant players, self-serving team owners and sky-high ticket prices 5 ways to better sports Love him or hate him, Mike Lupica is one sports fan who isn 't afraid to speak his mind. The sports columnist for The New York Daily News and Esquire magazine has a new book in stores this week, Mad as Hell: How Sports Got Away From the Fans — and How We Get It Back (G.p. PUTNAM'S SONS, $22.95). Here, he offers his own strong views on what's WMBMMBMMMBII wrong — and how to fix it. S ports has gotten away from us. Sports has gotten away from us even though there is more of it available than at any other time in history. More games. More teams. More cool merchandise to wear. But the average fan seems to matter less and less. These should be the glory days for sports, a real Golden Age. Only it isn't, no matter how much we buy and watch and listen and care. At a time when fans are bombarded with more of everything and armed with more information than a policy wonk in Washington, D.C., here is where we too often are at the end of the day as we watch SportsCenter on ESPN: We are angrier than ever. Because we're watching another free agent athlete like Shaquille O'Neal leave another team. Or we're watching a team like the Cleveland Browns, acting like a free agent, leave one city for another. We watch a player like Baltimore Oriole Roberto Alomar spit in the face of an umpire and PIGSKIN TRANSPLANTS Since 4.9??, five NflLtfanjs have traded their hometowns for new cities. 1982; Al Davis ships his Raiders out of Oakland for LA. (in 1994, the Silver and Black return to Oakland,) 1984; The Colts bolt put of Baltimore Indianapolis. Colts tins are stunned. 1988; The St. Louis Cardinals pack up and move to Phoenix. to Nashville. A lease Keep? them in still be allowed to play in postseason games. We watch an athlete like Michael Irvin of the Dallas Cowboys get caught with illegal drugs and two "self-employed models" in a hotel room, then see him get off with a slap on the wrist from the courts. All anybody seems to care about is when he'll be back in uniform. ••(•^••PMMMP Ticket prices keep going up. Big games are shown later and later on TV. (Most of this year's NBA finals games didn't even start until 9 p.m. ET.) We're raising one generation after another that can't stay up to watch the second half of the NBA finals or the bottom of the ninth in the World Series. New ballparks are now more important than the people in them. There is too much free agency; there is too little stability; we have lost the friendship, real or imagined, we once had with the players and the teams. Everyone seems delighted with the way things are going except us. Case in point: the way Cleveland lost the Browns. At the end of the 1995 season, Browns fans were forced to say goodbye to a team they'd supported grandly for decades. The Browns were owned by Art Model!, a man who nearly ran the team into Lake Erie, racking up a $60 million debt in spite of the fact that Cleveland Stadium was completely sold out almost every Sunday from the '60s 4 USA WEEKEND • Oct. 25-27, 1996 on. So when Baltimore threw money at him, Model! grabbed it and ran — and now Cleveland has to wait three seasons for an expansion team. Model! behaved gracelessly, stole a city's team and football history, and no one stopped him. Not the NFL. Not his fellow owners. Not Congress. No one. You wonder why fans are mad? Buy a ticket, the cheapest seat in the house, to see the L.A. Lakers. The cost of that ticket jumped from $9.50 last season to $21 this season after the Lakers signed Shaq for $120 million. Everyone seems to be a big winner in sports these days: Owners keep getting richer. Players sure keep getting richer, which is why we all spent the summer watching NBA players seemingly sign one $100 million contract after another. Juwan Howard, in fact, signed two $100 million contracts, one with the Miami Heat, then another with the Washington Bullets after the first one was voided by the NBA. If there is one message fans are getting these days it is this: Go ahead and still love your team if you want to. Just don't expect it to love you back. What's the solution? Here are five, for starters: 1 CIVE REBATES TO THE FANS When fans are drunk and disorderly at sports events, they get their tickets pulled, or worse. When some Giants fans got rowdy with snowballs last year in a late-season game in New Jersey between the Giants and the San Diego Chargers, some fans caught throwing ice and snow onto the field were prosecuted. One was found guilty of improper behavior and fined $500, plus court fees. When fans jump onto the field at ballgames, they get thrown in jail. COVER PHOTOGRAPH BY ROfl KINMONTH

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